Archive for August, 2011

If the projections for Hurricane Irene come true, we might have tropical storm conditions on Sunday. We are working to make sure the animals have adequate shelter. And we are also preparing for the possibility of a power failure. Despite our mission of farming sustainably, we are very dependent on electricity for many things, including the fences that  keep animals in and predators out. Steve has temporarily put the pigs into the corral, where they will be very cozy and secure without power. The chickens will be shut in their houses temporarily, and the cows will bunk with the pigs. This should please the pigs no end—they love the cows and visit them whenever they get the chance. The feelings are not mutual, but cows will just have to tolerate their annoying little friends for a day or so.

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We have lost a number of chickens to aerial predators over the last couple of weeks—as much as one chicken per day. The red-tailed hawk pictured above seems to be one of the culprits. At this time of year, the young fledglings are leaving the nest, and the adults are teaching them to hunt. It seems that they see our fields as the perfect place to train, and to treat the whole hawk family to a good meal of organic pasture-raised chicken.

This is now a major problem, and it could get worse over the next few weeks, so we decided to contact the USDA Wildlife Department to find out what options are available to us. Angelic DeButts, Wildlife Specialist with NH Wildlife Services stopped by and gave us a number of options to try and deter the hawk. These include pyrotechnics, a screech owl effigy, scary eye balloons, and trying to create a “no landing zone” in our chicken paddock. A permit to kill the hawk can be issued by the NH Wildlife services if these options are tried and none of them work. We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.

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Extreme Sand

This is what our lower field looked like yesterday. Did we misread the instructions for the Cornell soil test? No. With help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, we are trying to dig a shallow well. I say “trying” because it is not working. After a couple of inches of top soil, the next 16 feet is all sand.

But actually, from a soil testing point of view, this pit makes a dramatic point. Before we started grazing livestock here, our farm was tilled and planted with row crops for generations. Sandy soil makes for easy plowing—there are no rocks at all. But tilling reduces soil organic matter, especially in sandy soil. We are now left with barely a thin film of topsoil. Grazing will reverse that trend, but it will take generations for the topsoil to grow to a significant depth. I’m looking at this photo and thinking this field is a perfect place to experiment with biochar.

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